by Kathleen Oropeza
THE GAINESVILLE SUN, September 12, 2014

Parents, teachers and school districts across Florida are engaging in open public discourse over “testing insanity” and exploring the possibility of opting out of state-mandated assessments. For the first time in at least 15 years, the talk is about what’s best for kids. People get that Florida politicians have made high-stakes testing more important than learning.

Florida is in no way prepared to transition to the new state-mandated high stakes test this year. That’s why our nationally respected district leaders are calling for at least a two-year moratorium on high-stakes testing and time to consider alternatives. The most uplifting part of this development is that parents, teachers, school board members, superintendents, business leaders and students are working in collaboration toward a solution.

Although the conversations vary, the theme is the same: Florida’s children need us to create a new way because Tallahassee refuses to alter its status quo.

Florida’s testing transition plan does one thing. It pauses the assigning of an A-F school grade to individual schools for a year. It does nothing for teachers or children who will still face all the usual punishments based on the new unproven test, including grade retention and being denied diplomas.

This sort of absurdity is causing the iron fist of Florida’s A-F accountability system to lose its grip. History shows that once the oppressed are no longer afraid, the oppressor doesn’t stand a chance. Florida politicians have themselves to blame. They alone turned what was meant to be a helpful diagnostic measure into a high-stakes tool of doom.

The threats and fear no longer resonate. No sane person believes that a snapshot of a fraction of a child’s year should be held up as proof of anything. Parents, who have been grossly disrespected by the state, do not believe that a score on a test no one ever sees is a valid way to measure and possibly harm their child.

This is Florida’s light bulb moment. The passionate conversations taking place in districts between the people who know and love our children best is authentic and real. The time has come for parents, teachers, school board members, superintendents, business leaders and students to see this through. Together we can lift the burden of test obsession and breathe new life into education.

It’s time for us to seize the moral high ground and work to give the gift of joyful learning to the Florida public school children we love so much.